A former UDA man has written a book to apologise for planting a bomb in Lurgan – and to urge teenagers not to be tricked into terrorism by older people.
Billy McCallum, 63, was convicted of possession of explosives with intent and conspiracy to cause an explosion for his attack on January 13 1973 in Edward Street.
“As a child my parents were both deaf and dumb so I used to get the mick taken out of me,” he said. “That affected me and I became a very annoyed, aggressive type of a person.”
He was born in 1956 in Portadown but moved to Belfast, and then Tagnevan in Craigavon where he was sexually abused.
“I didn’t know what to tell anybody, didn’t know what to do. So my mind was a bit screwed up, I became a different character.”
He later moved to Mourneview in Lurgan as the Troubles erupted.
“People got very worried and I got misled into things. But I started to think – ‘this is ok because I am getting attention because of what I was doing’, but I was very misled.”
Youngsters on both sides were fighting and the IRA left a bomb in his estate, he said.
“I felt very sad and very aggressive towards everything, not just because of the Troubles but because of what was going on with me, being abused and so on.
“I got terribly involved and of course the older ones mislead the youngsters, and me being a youngster with no sense and both my parents being deaf and dumb, I just thought it was the right thing to be getting on with.”
Although only 16, as a UDA member he drove the 200lb bomb by car to Edwards Street in Lurgan, where he was told four IRA men were meeting.
“I lit the fuse and it went out, but God intervened and he said to me ‘thou shalt not kill’ and the fear of God came upon me.”
He did not try to relight it.
“Nobody got killed and nobody got hurt but it would have caused an awful lot of upset.
“They were taking advantage of me. Of course they were. A young fella going to blow up a street, thinking it is going to be all right. Imagine if that bomb had gone off. I would probably still be in prison or it could have killed me.”
He fled to England, where he now lives, but later served two years in jail and borstal.
“I was a Marxist, I was a communist, I got involved in the drugs scene a bit. My life was a total mess. I had no idea how to live life because of what happened to me. But then I became a Christian, aged 34, and my life changed.”
He now has a message for teenagers in NI going down the path he did.
“Stop. Think. Read my book. See what can happen and where you can end up. And remember it is never the guys who are telling you what to do that get in trouble; it is you that gets in trouble.
“Prison was unbelievable. I was locked up for 23 hours a day. I was beaten up and all sorts of stuff in prison.
“The criminal record never goes from you. So when you go for a job you have to declare it if they ask you your past. You are not covered by the rehabilitation act for this act.
“So I would say to the youngsters of NI, ‘you are known all over the world as the most hospitable people there ever was, so look at each other in the same light as the world looks at you.
“And get on together guys and leave the Troubles to the past. They are not worth it. Get on with life and get a job. Strive, go for your goals – you can be anything you want.”
• God’s Intervention, Thou Shalt Not Kill, is £7.50 and available from www.BillyMcCallum.com. All profits go to charity, Billy says.